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The Skin of Sleep

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The skin of sleep
is thin. It will not hold.
Its contents stumble out.
A nub of bone
lodged in earth
at the bottom of a pit.
A stranger staring
down from the rim.
The skin of sleep is thin.
It cannot hold.
Lost names spill out.
Children engraved
in ash. A sea of blood.
Only you, tenderness,
stillborn, beneath
the skin of sleep.

Source: Poetry (March 2014)

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This poem originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

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The Skin of Sleep

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  • Born in Baltimore, biologist, poet, and writer Myra Sklarew was educated at Tufts University, where she earned a BS in biology, and the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, where she earned an MA. She began her career in the sciences, studying at the Cold Spring Harbor Biological Laboratory with Salvador Luria and Max Delbruck, and conducting research on frontal lobe function and delayed response memory in rhesus monkeys at the Yale University School of Medicine.

    With musical precision and narrative clarity, Sklarew uses historical and scientific inquiry in poems that confront Jewish identity and the legacy of the Holocaust. She is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Harmless (2010), The Witness Trees: Lithuania (2007, a bilingual edition with Yiddish translation by poet David Wolpe), and Lithuania: New & Selected Poems (1995). She is also the author of Over the Rooftops of Time: Jewish Stories, Essays, Poems (2002) and...

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